MY TIPS ON PUGLIA TOUR

A WEEK IN PUGLIA MID SEPTEMBER
We enjoyed the Tauck itinerary very much! We enjoyed PUGLIA!
We arrived two days early to relax and recover from jet lag, Tauck could not book us into the Masseria for a pre-stay, there were no rooms because of a wedding, so we stayed at the Borgo Egnasia which we booked independently and it turned out to be one of our most favorite ever hotels. Justin Timberlake was married there for those who care to know such things.
We deliberately chose a mid September departure because we liked what were supposed to be the average temperatures for the time of year. Well nature was not on our side and it was continuously at least 20 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average, so that most days it hit almost 100 degrees and all of us suffered, there were 20 in our group and one suffered heat stroke in the first couple of days and remained ill for the rest of the tour, the remainder of us suffered but just about coped, copious amounts of water to drink and clothes just soaking wet by the end of the day.
There really was little free time, the longest amounts of time were two of the days in the middle of the day when we were not near our hotel, so there was no way for anyone to make a side trip to somewhere else if they had wanted to do this. Most days we arrived back at the hotel very late in the afternoon, just time to cool off by a swim and shower and change for dinner. Our evening itinerary was swapped around two days because of a wedding at one of our restaurant venues.
Welcome dinner, jackets? One man wore a jacket, never saw it again, until the final dinner when more jackets were worn, but even then it varied between an Hawaiian shirt and a jacket and bow tie, whatever the brochure says, it is not necessary for this tour and as usual on every tour I have been on, everyone got more and more casual. Swimming, we swam more times on this tour than we ever have on a Tauck tour, beautiful large swimming pools, including a big saltwater indoor pool at the Borgo.
The Tauck final document booklet----specifically mentioned that Italian hairdryers Were not powerful and suggested taking your own, utter rubbish! All three hotels provided very good powerful hairdryers, absolutely no need to bring one with you.
Wash cloths? Provided in the Masseria Maizza and the Borgo Egnasia but not at the hotel in LECCE --- no hair conditioner provided in this hotel either. Will correct this, on a pre stay at the Borgo there were washcloths, but not when we returned there on the last night.
Some of the electric outlets in the Borgo Egnasia took American style plugs too, everywhere else you will require an ADAPTER for your electronics.
Shopping--- the area still observes the tradition of closing stores from around noon or 1pm until around 5pm, so that made the sparse time for shopping even harder. The only true time where you might be able to do shopping was early in the tour and I forget where that was right now but the Main Street we all visited had a variety of the usual souvenirs for the area that the tour guide had given us a hand out with pictures of the items and an explanation of what they were. The town called the white city, Ostuni, had shopping, but the same items cost a lot more.
Food, I had been reading on the forum that the food could have been more 'peasant food'. All the food we had was typical Italian food from the Puglia region and we were told that 95 percent of the people still partake of this kind of food. Whereas many American women 'do not cook' or families barely eat any meals together, this is not how the Italian culture is. The food we ate on this tour was delicious, we all ate and ate and drank and drank. Octopus, I ate it once. pizza, I ate it once. What else did I eat, wild boar, donkey, lamb entrails, cuttlefish, cactus fruit. Those were the more interesting things, all very good. I particularly loved the very fresh cheeses all made from unpasteurized milk, the gelato, the breads.
There were parts of the tour that included a large number of steps, particularly in Matera, and in the heat was extremely challenging to several on the tour, steps were also made of shiny, slippy stones, that was the first day and the local tour guide took it at a very fast pace. The next day she seemed to slow down a little, I think our tour director must have had a word with her. Castel del Monte had many many steps and other places too. There are no alternative routes or ramps. Anyone with any type of mobility issues would not be able to do this tour justice.
I highly recommend this tour to contrast with the other areas of Italy that Tauck visits or even as a gentle introduction to a first time in Italy without the craziness of places like Rome.

Comments

  • british: we are so excited to read your review of puglia !! thanks for such a detailed one..a few questions if you don't mind: 1) how did you get to the bari area? we will fly out of nyc area..train? plane? 2) perhaps we should stay at the borgo for our pre-stay? is it far from the masseria? we are booked there, but can change. the dress code tips are helpful as well. casual sounds comfortable! any favorite tours ? thank you so much for any info..we loved the amalfi trip..sailorguy
  • edited September 2015
    Hello sailorguy. I am so pleased you found my review helpful.
    We flew Lufthansa from Newark to Munich. ( we do not care for Rome airport) and then on to Bari which is an Air Dolomiti operated flight. We were very pleased with this route. Going, there was a five hour layover but Munich is a lovely airport which even has lounger seats you can rest on, it was not busy and there were some nice stores to browse. We were with friends, it passed quickly. Coming back, the layover was just two hours which is barely enough time to navigate Munich airport and the extra security for US flights. We flew premium economy across the Atlanic. If you read any of my crazy stuff here, you will know that we always chose our own flights but get Tauck to book them for us because we like the added flexibility of using Tauck for flights, not having to pay until two months before the trip and Tauck's ability to help with flight changes should anything go haywire which, they cannot help if you book yourself.
    We have taken two other Tauck Italy trips including the Rome, Amalfi coast and Capri tour as well as an independent trip to Itlay many years ago. You might know I am very keen on arriving at least two days early when there is a jet lag situation, this tour does have some later start days but even so, we certainly benefited from the two extra days before the tour began. Some people arrived the same day. Some said they had never thought about arriving early but wish they had. No, we do not like self inflicted travel torture.
    The drive from Bari to the Masseria takes one hour. I am not sure Tauck would be willing to include this drive if you booked the Borgo as a pre stay, you would have to see. If the Massaeria has rooms, I doubt it. We asked how much the limo to the airport from the Borgo would be and it was 130 Euros. The taxi from the Borgo the Masseria Maizza was 15 Euros between the four of us.
    Favorite tours? We enjoyed the PUGLIA itinerary. This area of Italy looked very different than other parts we have been to, it's much drier, there are 60 million olive trees in PUGLIA, that's what you will see, everywhere! We barely saw a bird or heard any, even though we were in the middle of the countryside. We never saw a wild animal of any description. Domestic animals, yes! Seeing the different vegetation and wildlife is a big part of any vacation for me, it's my Geograghy 'A' level education showing through here.
  • I was on the same tour, same departure. As British said it was extremely hot which made sightseeing challenging, added to the fact that the a/c on the bus didn't seem to be able to cope with it. A few other points - on day 2 the visit to a cheese factory is exactly that. I was hoping it might be more artisanal, but the cheese is made by machine, finished by hand. As he said, the steps in Matera could be particularly challenging for some. On day 3 you follow the same route as the previous day, which is kind of boring. Day 4 was Castel del Monte. There was no queueing system for the shuttle bus to Castel del Monte, so several of us refused to get on the first overcrowded (and hot) bus, which delayed the tour of the Castel. I would expect better of Tauck and their local guide. Having arrived there it has been stripped of its marble interior and is just a shell. Added to the fact that little is known about it I found this of little interest. But lunch at Bocca di Lupo Winery was one of the best. However it is a long drive back to the Masseria. Day 5 started with a walking tour of Lama d'Antico - cave dwellings, some of which were used as a chapel. The local guide was interesting, but otherwise....Then we went to Il Frantoio for lunch. This is run by a marketing genius, more image than substance. When we sat down for lunch three bottles of oil were on the table, so we started tasting them. Only then to be told that each one was selected to accompany a different course. Surely it would be more straightforward to bring each bottle with its appropriate course? That evening we arrived in Lecce. For me a highlight - especially as it was the only hotel in a town where after dinner we could enjoy the passeggiata, and feel part of Italian life. Day 6 saw us visiting a very talented sculptor and then the town of Galatina, which I found one of the more interesting days. First item on Day 7 was the papier mache studio, which was very interesting and then Ostuni, which I found a disappointment. If you've travelled around the mediterranean before you know what a white washed town looks like, and there is very litttle else of interest to see. Finally we arrived at Borgo Egnazia, all neutral colours and traditional style given a contemporary twist. I spent two extra nights there at the end, and if you like a very firm massage can recommend Tomas in the Spa. Overall I didn't find the food that good or full of flavour and several other people said the same thing. My fellow travelling companions were great, very interesting and fun to be with. But overall the tour was a disappointment, I don't think there are really enough sites of great interest in this area. Independently I booked a hotel in Bari for my first night and Tauck arranged for me to be picked up there rather than at the airport or station, which I appreciated.
  • Hey Ramsay wrote a great review, he is way more sophisticated than me, so trust his review, he is definitely correct about the olive oil tasting, on our last olive oil tasting on a Tauck tour, it was a separate and more informative activity. Mr B would agree about Castel del Monte. So enjoyed your company!
    K sent me a photo of him sitting putting string around newspapers this morning for a joke and I nearly fell off my chair laughing! J
  • Thanks for the compliment British - I much enjoyed the company of you four too, you were all great fun. I just wanted to add that it's a shame no time is spent in Bari. The old town is much more interesting than Ostuni to wander around, with narrow laneways with a plethora of shrines, and you can walk along the walls too for a great view of the town and coastline. Apart from the Cathedral there is also the Basilica of St. Nicholas to visit (the inspiration behind Santa Claus) and the castle which is surrounded by a moat (dry nowadays). It also has a long seafront promenade and a busy fish market, right by the harbour.
  • rhgramsay: thanks for a very detailed and clear review of the puglia trip..we have also been in contact with british and his valuable tips.we are booked on this trip for next year, but may possibly switch to tuscany/cinque terra, having thought it would be a more coastal trip(bari).it sounds interesting. where did you stay in bari and did tauck provide transportation? were the other accommodations as nice as well as the food? we just did the roe/amalfi/capri tour and found that magical..we do realize trips are different, perhaps cinque terra is mire our liking..thanks for any insight..sailorguy
  • edited September 2015
    Hi sailor guy! Let's clarify here, Mr. B would not be seen dead participating in a forum. My review was trying to answer the usual questions seen on the forum like, do men wear jackets, are there hair dryers and so on. Ramsay focussed very nicely on the itinerary.
    Before you switch to a different tour, ask yourself questions about what you want for a tour. Here were the questions we asked before we made a decision for our tour. 1. We were on the Tauck New Zealand tour in January and took two or was it three days there before the tour began, so not much vacation left for the year. 2. Puglia sounded new and secret as a destination in Italy, it sounded a bit more slow paced than usual without too many hotel changes and the trip was short so we had enough vacation left. 3. Mr. B spent a good part of the first part of the year battling an acute health problem that is now cured, but he needed a break. 4. We have been to Italy three times,different areas, actually Mr B has been several more times than that, lucky guy. 5. We know we will be back in Italy in the future either independently or with Tauck, so let's go for something different.
    I do wish I had been able to read the comments about Bari here before I went, we may have visited as a result. Interestingly, Ramsay is British, so he is probably a more experienced traveller and pretty comfortable exploring. Maybe Bari does not have the so called 'Tauck standard' hotels within the walls of it's more historic area. It's quite a large town, all we saw of it were the endless horrible looking tower blocks over and over as we drove along the highway. The average Tauck traveller might not find this appealing, we might negotiate these to find the gems hidden within the city, but maybe other Tauckers might turn their nose up at such areas, just going by my experience of fellow travelers in the past. Perhaps Ramsay is still around and can give more specific comments on hotels there and how negotiating Bari might be for the 'average' Tauck traveller.
    I just looked at your alternative choice -well there you go, Florence and Siena are my two favorite places in Italy! This is a very different tour, it will be unlike the quiet of some of the areas of Puglia, excepting Lecce at night, wonderful! And the touristy Ostuni. My theory on the overlong stay in Ostuni is this--- we were ultimately on our way to the Borgo Egnasia and they probably would not have been ready for us to check in before 3pm. Often Tauckers complain that there are not enough shopping opportunities, so once we had seen the sites and views there, it had the stores that those who shop might want to shop in, and because it was touristy, they were open, which is not the case in most places in Puglia.
    We will be back in Italy, we were glad to enjoy Puglia before it hosts the 'City of Culture' or whatever it was titled in the next couple of years and the secret will be out and there will be hoards of people trying to get a glimpse into the little trulli, and all the shops will indeed stay open in the afternoon!
  • Hi sailorguy, sorry for the delay in replying. British is correct, the outskirts of Bari are not appealing. However the old town of Bari is walled and as I said, I found it very interesting. It isn't large, so can easily be visited in a few hours. I stayed on the seafront at the Grande Albergo delle Nazioni which is a five star hotel. It is individually furnished in a contemporary style, the bedroom walls being fabric covered, which means it is quiet. It has a rooftop restaurant with panoramic views over the seafront and also a rooftop swimming pool and spa. Certainly up to Tauck standards. About a ten to fifteen minute walk to the old town along the seafront promenade. A taxi from the airport cost me 35 euros, and Tauck sent a limo to take me to the Masseria. I found it odd that as the tour ended the next morning, those who were leaving Borgo Egnazia had very little time to enjoy it. As I stayed a further two nights I could relax and enjoy the spa and facilities.
  • rhgramsy and british: thankyou all for your info on puglia..as it stands, we've changed our trip back to cinque terra,florence and tuscany..it seems to be more to our liking and interests at this time..any trip to italy is magical..sailorguy
  • Hey sailorguy. Would love you to post your review of the cinq terre trip next year. Please don't forget. I have found this forum great to help me chose you're too!
  • British, this thread is great. This is what the Forum should be used for. Your detailed trip report, enhanced by the give-and-take of the other participants is excellent. Thank you all so much.
  • This thread worked very well. I commented on the things people often asked questions about and Ramsay was more specific about the tour. The fact that we were both on the same tour was extra useful. For the past couple of years I have tried to write a review of the tours I take, hoping that someone out there will find it useful. The more reviews, the better the balance. Then the reader might be able to figure out what they may not like or like about the tour. Plus they might get some great practical tips. I also love lively discussion, some readers do not! I'm afraid I have gotten a bit bored lately, too many people just writing, hi, I am from small town USA and I am looking forward to the tour, very nice, but boring. I shall be ever greatful for some of the info I have found so useful on this forum. Keep those opinions coming in, positive and negative!
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